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Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s administration spent more than $380,000 in legal fees attempting to end expanded federal unemployment benefits in Maryland early, an invoice shows.
The 17-page invoice released Friday is dated Aug. 20 and includes $381,952.50 in legal fees, as well as $696.56 in filing fees and court costs, for a total of $382,649.06.
The invoice, from Venable LLP, was released in response to a public information request from Maryland Matters on Friday.
Parts of the invoice are redacted, but a cover page indicates that the state received an unknown discount.
Typically, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) would represent the governor in legal challenges, but he publicly disagreed with Hogan’s decision to stop unemployment benefits early.
The benefits were the subject of an intense and brisk series of court hearings around the Fourth of July. Hogan was one of several Republican governors to announce plans to end pandemic-era expansions of the federal unemployment program early.
A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge ordered that the benefits should continue on July 3, the same day they were set to expire. The court’s decision, and others, were challenged by the Hogan administration up to the Court of Appeals. Each of the appeals failed until a preliminary injunction was issued in Baltimore City Circuit Court on July 13. The Hogan administration announced after that ruling that it would not seek another appeal.
During the litigation, Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that Hogan was pursuing costly legal representation, while also ending federal payments that could bolster the state’s economy while keeping out-of-work Marylanders afloat.
Hogan contended that he was justified in ending them early because employers are having a difficult time filling vacant positions.
At least seven Venable employees spent more than 688 billable hours on the case, according to the invoice.
On Friday, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said he could not speak to the amount of the contract or its terms because it was negotiated and signed by the attorney general’s office.
Ricci also defended the Hogan administration’s policy decision to attempt to end the benefits early, before congressional funding is set to expire this weekend.
“These federal programs were doing tremendous damage to our economy and our small businesses. The White House and the U.S. Department of Labor said states could end them early. Most states followed that guidance,” Ricci said.
He also said it was Frosh’s decision to “abdicate his constitutional obligation to defend the state, leading to the hiring of outside counsel.”
The governor’s office intends for the costs to come from the Office of the Attorney General budget, Ricci said.
“His office negotiated and signed this contract, and we were not a party to it. So he should foot the bill, and working with state budget officials, we will explore all options to make that happen,” Ricci wrote in an email.